Tonight on FX, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk‘s American Horror Story franchise premieres its latest season with American Horror Story: Hotel. Taking place in modern day downtown Los Angeles, Hotel follows the lives of the inhabitants and visitors of the creepy Hotel Cortez. The dark, gothic building is the kind of place that rents by the hour or for eternity; there doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between.
In tonight’s episode, we meet only a handful of the all-star ensemble cast: Lady Gaga as the hotel owner, The Countess; Matt Bomer as Donovan, her lover and the son of Kathy Bates‘ Iris; Sarah Paulson as sadistic junkie Sally; Denis O’Hare as Liz Taylor; Wes Bentley as detective John Lowe with Chloe Sevigny playing his wife, Alex; and Cheyenne Jackson as Will Drake, a fashion designer who is buying the hotel from the Countess.
As is par for the course with most Ryan Murphy series (and certainly AHS), Hotel has a very queer sensibility. Besides the fact the show employees a handful of out actors (Gaga, Paulson, Bomer, Jackson, O’Hare among them), the characters all seem to have equally eerie sexual and murderous motivations. An early scene has Sally enjoying a brutal bedroom scenario when Max Greenfield‘s Gabriel checks in for a fix. But what we are here for, of course, is the lady-on-lady, which we already know is coming with The Countess and Angela Bassett‘s Ramona Royale.
Ramona is, unfortunately, absent from the premiere, but we do see how bisexual couple The Countess and Donovan spend their evenings. It’s reminiscent of The Hunger—the David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve relationship that eventually fell apart with the introduction of Susan Sarandon. Together, Countess and Donovan venture out into the world and seduce another pair with a simple exchange of sensual glances and knowing smiles. They end up spending the night together, swapping significant others so that The Countess spends time with both the other man and woman. But this is American Horror Story, after all, so things do not end with breakfast in bed. Instead, it’s a bloodfest.
The premiere is only beginning to introduce us to the seedy and haunting world of Hotel, and with so many seeds of characters and storylines planted within, it leaves us wanting. At this point, Ryan Murphy fans are well aware of the kinds of grotesque and hyper-sexual queerness that can often feel gratuitous. But on the same token, we can’t get enough of it. Gluttons for punishment? Sure, but American Horror Story is the gift that keeps on giving, even if it’s not exactly what we were hoping for.
American Horror Story: Hotel premieres tonight on FX.